Match Report – 28/04/2013 – J2: Section 11 – Gamba Osaka 1-1 Gainare Tottori

Congratulations to Gainare Tottori for coming to Banpaku with a game plan that worked a treated and earned them a deserved 1-1 draw against a lethargic Gamba Osaka who were unable to break down a resilient defence, whilst it was their own defence (Niwa) that caused its own problems in front of a wonderful 16,803 people at Banpaku.

Gamba were forced into one (costly) change at the back as Nishino was unable to recover from the knock that he picked up during the week, trading places with my least favourite player Daiki Niwa. Nishino was able to make the bench which stayed the same apart from that change. Iwashita and Leandro both managed to shrug off their midweek injuries to make it into an otherwise consistent starting eleven.

Gainare made 2 changes from the team that lost 3-0 last weekend to Kyoto Sanga – out went Miura and Yoshino (the latter not even on the bench), both being changed for defenders in like-for-like changes that saw Ozaki and Mori slot into their recently fragile defence, with Yokotake moving to midfield. They stuck to the same 4-1-4-1 formation, just like last weekend’s match, but they generally had at least 9 players behind the ball with their defence and midfield not that far apart. It was up to Gamba to get in-between those lines if they were to have any chance of scoring. Nonetheless, with our firepower, you would have expected us to score a few.

Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Niwa, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Endo, Konno, Ienaga, Futagawa, Kurata, Leandro.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Nishino, Abe, Okazaki, Uchida, Kawanishi.
Gainare Tottori XI – Sugimoto, Ozaki, Nagira, Mori, Takeda, Okuyama, Yokodake, Tanaka, Nagasato, Sanenobu, Kubo.
Gainare Tottori Subs – Kobari, Miura, Tsurumi, Hirota, Okano, Okamoto, Sumita.

Gamba Osaka1st Half:
The first half started in typical Gamba fashion, with Fujiharu getting in-behind the defence immediately but his control let him down in what would be a macrocosm of the match for the boys in blue and black. Things seemed bright though as Leandro won a free kick on the edge of the area just a minute later, but Endo’s shot almost seemed to have been lobbed as it sailed harmlessly over the bar. Tottori certainly bided their time and were patient when going on the counter attack but they struggled to hold onto the ball for any real length of time, generally with the ball being over hit or having a poor pass ending the attacks.

Gamba were also patient but chances were at a premium as Tottori suffocated the space, which forced a Kurata shot away from goal after said patient play. Fujiharu did get a cross in towards Leandro but bad communication between himself and Ienaga lost the ball as both of them attacked it. Futagawa then also had a shot well blocked in the 15th minute whilst Kaji blazed one high, wide and not so handsome just a moment later. It was all Gamba with their passing football but they lacked the penetration necessary to get through a stubborn Tottori side whose aim was to get in at half-time level. Gamba helped them out a bit with fairly poor control by Ienaga and Futagawa, who were too slow and not precise enough.

Into the 26th minute and Tottori did have a decent chance from a cross but Endo was on hand to flick the cross away. This was Tottori’s golden period of Golden Week as they were secure at the back, even if Sugimoto did punch Leandro only after punching the ball away from a ball over the top. Their first chance came in the 36th minute as Iwashita was dragged out of position to the left and Niwa failed to cover him. The precise pass into the box on the side came to striker Kubo whose shot was blocked well from Kaji who did cover Niwa, with Fujigaya sliding out with his feet to prevent the man at the back getting a touch to get the ball past him. These warning signs were not heeded as Ienaga lost the ball in midfield in the 41st minute – the hoofed ball should have been food and drink for Niwa but he managed to jump under the ball and let in Kubo, only for Iwashita to cover him properly and prevent Kubo from ending his 45 yard sprint into the box with a goal.

With very little action – and the most exciting/nerve-wracking of it coming from Gainare – Gamba had not shown any flexibility in attack, whilst the rigid defence of the opposition seemed almost too tricky for Gamba to get past. There was a lack of shooting from Gamba as Sugimoto was not really tested – bigger things were expected for the second half.

Gainare Tottori2nd Half:
The half started as the first half ended, with Futagawa having bad control whilst Gamba could not test out Sugimoto in the Tottori goal. Fujiharu did set-up Futagawa in the 53rd minute but under pressure, he only managed to get his header down the throat of the untroubled keeper. It seemed like Tottori was under some decent pressure from this moment, again without too much going at their goalkeeper. So what did they do in response? They scored. They won a throw-in and kept it near the corner on the right hand-side with Fujiharu limply supported by Endo, who did not help him to press the attackers. Tottori made some space and got to the by-line and crossed for Kubo, who had lost the headless Niwa in the middle, which allowed the striker to flick a header into the opposite corner to give the visitors a deserved lead, but not due to their overall attacking play. They had played the game well and were strategically sound. 1-0 after 57 minutes – would Gamba wake up?

Hasegawa certainly did as he took off the ineffective wingers of Futagawa and Ienaga for a more aggressive, less passing and more energetic pair in Hiroyuki Abe and Shota Kawanishi, with Kurata moving to the left as the latter joined the quiet Leandro up top. Sanenobu went off for Sumida to give the visitors some fresh legs a few minutes before that. Gamba’s pair linked up immediately in the 66th minute but Kawanishi rushed his shot in some space and did not bother Sugimoto. At least there was some aggression which created some space.

Gamba got more chances, half chances, through Fujiharu, Abe and Kawanishi but the final ball did not quite make it. Tottori should have buried the match in the 74th minute after winning a free kick in the same area they scored their goal. It was originally cleared well by the Gamba defence but a lay-off on the edge of the area to Okuyama, who crashed his shot off the bar. Fujigaya was well beaten and Gamba should have been. Immediately, with space in behind Tottori, Kaji crossed towards Leandro on the counter attack and the defender Nagira mistimed his jump. The ball fell to Leandro who managed to squeeze the ball past the rushing Sugimoto from 7 yards, his shot going in off the post. Inches saved Gamba then Tottori got exposed just once after they should have scored again and Leandro’s shot was put in the goal thanks to the edge of the post. Talk about small spaces in distance and time, eh?

Gamba seemed to sense blood with Abe heading straight at Sugimoto with a decent chance whilst Leandro crossed for Kawanishi to dive in at the far post, but the defender just flicked it away from him. English referee James Adcock still called a goal kick though. Leandro then dived to try and win a penalty a minute later and deservedly got a yellow card. A huge blow came when Iwashita slowly made his way off the pitch after injuring some part of his leg although he did try to play on. He was replaced by Uchida in the 87th minute, whilst Nagasato made way for Hirota for Gainare.

Was there to be any last minute heroics? Abe tried but his half-volley at the back post was well parried by Sugimoto whilst his substitute buddy Kawanishi was deservedly booked for a wild lunge on the touchline – a bit of ill-discipline and frustration there.

Full-time, and a poor result. After the superb Toyama performance away from last weekend, this was the complete opposite to that performance. How can a team change so much in a week? Partly down to Tottori’s tactics, but Gamba should really have had enough to beat such opposition, without trying to be offensive to Tottori. The clean sheet was not recorded and is that down to the loss of Nishino or the inclusion of Niwa? Furthermore, if Iwashita’s injury is serious, does that mean Niwa will continue in defence? The biggest problem was that Gamba have had many teams do the same as Tottori did and they have yet to find a solution to it. At the moment, it seems like we can only play one way – passing football – and we cannot quite get the necessary tweaks into the strategy when we need to.  At least we have still things to learn. Teams will come to Banpaku and soak up the pressure and until we work on that and work it out, we will only ever have 1 home win all season.

Man of the Match:
Hiroki Fujiharu would have been my Man of the Match had the goal for Tottori not come from his left hand-side, although we can blame Niwa and Endo (to some extent) for that goal. The game changed when the substitutes came on and added a bit of thrust and aggression into the attack and creating more spaces and more chances than any period before they came on. Out of the two, I pick Hiroyuki Abe as the best player, and he only played 25 minutes. Of course, Kawanishi was a threat and kudos to him, but Abe really forced the issue all by himself and could have had a couple of assists and goals on another day. He has had limited playing time in recent weeks thanks to the “strength” of the first eleven, but he staked a claim with the other wingers having real shockers today. He is a real prospect and showed that he can play a bigger part in the team. I would like to see Hasegawa play him against Gifu on Friday.

Where it leaves both teams:
Excluding V-Varen Nagasaki who play on Monday, it was a day for drawing at the top of the table. Vissel Kobe were cruising against Fagiano Okayama but let a 3-0 lead slip after Okayama maintained their undefeated record by scoring 3 goals in the last 6 minutes of the match plus stoppage time to maintain their 5 point gap. Kyoto Sanga also suffered a 3-3 draw after being 2-0 up and then falling to 3-2 behind against JEF United before equalling the score late on. Tochigi SC were the biggest winners as they moved to 20 points after a 2-0 win against a dire Kitakyushu. The most important thing is that Gamba are still in 2nd place and are still unbeaten. Nagasaki can join them on 21 points with a win over Ehime FC on Monday.

As for Tottori, they stay in 17th place after teams below them all took points (except Kitakyushu) and this well-earned point ended their 3 match beaten streak and stopped the 3 goals-conceded-in-each-away-game-for-the-last-three-matches rot. They probably will not be relegated but will still probably be part of the mini-league at the bottom of the table. Excellent result for them today and they will take a lot of confidence back to Tottori as they prepare to take on a humiliated Tokushima Vortis, who lost to Gunma 4-1.

Gamba must shrug this off and be adaptable against another team that will come and sit in defence on Friday in the form of FC Gifu. If they do not win there, then I quit!

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